Metra Restarts Study to Bring Service to Oswego
May 18, 2016 03:43PM ● Published by Shannon Antinori
Dreams of bringing a commuter rail stop to Oswego are one step closer to becoming a reality.
On Wednesday, the Metra Board of Directors authorized restarting and completing engineering and environmental studies to potentially bring commuter service to the Village of Oswego and Kendall County.
The decision came three months after Oswego Village President Gail Johnson appeared before the Metra board to plead her case for bringing a Metra stop to the village. Last summer, Johnson stressed the need to push for a local station, saying she feared Oswego had “fallen off Metra’s radar.”
"I am thrilled that our persistence has paid off and that we can get back to planning for our future,” Johnson said. “I am grateful that our call to action was answered by our state and federal leaders.”
The Village of Oswego has also set aside 15 acres near Orchard and Mill roads for a potential Metra station.
“It certainly took more than a village to get this done,” Johnson added in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “My thanks to the Mayors and Boards of Montgomery, Yorkville, Plano, and Sandwich and all of our state legislators and Congressional representatives; when people work together, amazing things happen.”
Metra began studies to extend the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) line past Aurora in Kendall County after local officials secured $7.5 million in federal funding in the mid-2000s. The proposed extension would bring the BNSF line past Aurora toward Oswego, Montgomery, Yorkville and possibly Plano and Sandwich.
The studies were halted in June 2015 to determine if there was consensus among local officials to spend the remaining $6.6 million earmarked for the studies on the unfunded railroad extension rather than other infrastructure needs in the area, Metra said in a statement Wednesday.
Metra said construction on the BNSF extension could cost more than $200 million. The railway cited its “inability to fund construction of the project due to its $11.7 billion in state of good repair needs over the next decade.”
The decision to restart the study came after local leaders
indicated that there was a consensus to continue the engineering and
environmental studies for the potential extension.
In addition to Johnson’s appeal to the Metra board in February, Congressman Randy Hultgren recently sent a letter to Metra Chairman Randy Oberman conveying the results of a questionnaire he sent to Kendall County officials. The results showed “overwhelming support” for using the remaining $6.6 million in federal funding to complete the studies.
“I am impressed by the deliberate and thoughtful way the leaders of Kendall County came together to show their support for the extension of the BNSF extension,” Oberman said. “They clearly understand the financial demands that will be facing them and I look forward to working with them in the future.”
In a statement, the Village of Oswego said the environmental and engineering studies could take “many months” to complete. Once they are finished, officials will focus on funding for the estimated $200 million project, along with partnering with the Regional Transportation Authority to bring service to Kendall County.